WHAT IS AN iLAB?
InSTEDD’s Innovation Labs (aka iLabs) are spaces for innovation, research and consultancy with a focus on collaborative technologies for social good. Each iLab promotes cross-sector collaborations that bring people together to explore solutions to regional health, safety and development problems.
The iLab approach is a unique blend of the social and technological development spheres, which have traditionally worked on problem solving in isolation from each other. By working collaboratively to explore shared solutions, the iLabs foster collaborative engineering practices, multidisciplinary dialogue, cross-sector partnerships and entrepreneurial innovation serving the public good.
Each of our regional iLabs act as enabling environments for technology transfer and collaboration between software developers, governments, NGOs, universities, private sector companies, local communities and experts from a variety of disciplines.
WHAT IS THE iLAB SOUTHEAST ASIA?
In 2008, InSTEDD launched the first innovation lab, located in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, with the goal of building technological capacity for addressing health, safety and developmental issues in the Mekong Basin.
Since then, the iLab SEA has worked on a variety of projects, including working closely with Cambodia Communicable Disease Control (CDC) to strengthen the agency’s internal communication as well as assisting the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD (NCHADS) to develop an appointment reminder system as an extension to their current patient information system.
WHAT DOES THE iLAB SEA DO?
The iLab Southeast Asia work all focuses on improving regional health, safety and sustainable development by:
- Building Capacity within communities to foster a local culture of innovation
- Creating Collaboration Technologies for social good
- Collaborating with End Users through a human-centered design and development process
- Ensuring Usefulness and Impact through research and evaluation
At the iLab Southeast Asia, solutions are developed and evolved in the field. The iLab SEA team designs and uses context-appropriate tools to help our partners overcome obstacles that hinder collaboration, allowing them to work more effectively to improve health, safety and development issues. We work side-by-side with our partners in their communities throughout the process of design, implementation and evaluation so that we can tailor the technologies to suit their needs.
Our team works collaboratively to invent new technologies, adapt existing tools to the local context, provide training and support, and evaluate outcomes in a cycle of continuous improvement. By building local capacity, we help to ensure that the systems created are more relevant than when introduced by outsiders, and that necessary innovation will continue beyond the life of a single project.
HOW DOES “INNOVATION” CONTRIBUTE TO SOCIAL IMPACT?
The iLab Southeast Asia works on real problems, in the field with real users to solve problems that focus on a social needs. We work in rapid iterations, so we learn fast. This approach translates into solutions that are simpler, easier, cheaper, and incredibly user-friendly.
We believe that true innovation solves a real problem in the field, rather than a theory existing only in an isolated office environment. At the iLab, we know that the best form of innovation is a new method, idea or product that helps people overcome barriers to sharing information in a way that keeps them healthier, safer and economically supported.
WHY PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA?
Because the lessons from Phnom Penh would be applicable throughout most of the Southeast Asia region. In Cambodia, we’ve seen lots of locally-driven entrepreneurship and fast growth in addition to a very active mobile & connectivity industry. It was also convenient that Phnom Penh was the ICT leader of regional disease networks in 2008 when we set up the first iLab.
ARE THERE OTHER iLABS TOO?
The iLab Latin America, our second iLab founded in 2011 and located in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is the result of a partnership between InSTEDD and Manas, a Buenos Aires-based software development and consulting firm. Our Latin America team is helping NGOs, governments, social entrepreneurs and other organizations in the region design and use collaborative technology tools to better deliver critical services to vulnerable populations, while building and optimizing their technological capacities to support their humanitarian work.
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHICH TECHNOLOGIES TO USE?
The nations, communities, and local organizations we assist know what their challenges are better than anyone. We count on their knowledge and leadership to help develop solutions that address the unique needs of each context. The iLab strategy focuses on a combination of human-centered design, agile software development techniques, and creative cross-disciplinary collaboration.
The technologies we use depend entirely on what works best for our partners. We choose the programming languages, tools and technologies through a collaborative process with out partners to develop the best solution for their specific context.
WHAT IS THE iLAB SEA’S RELATIONSHIP WITH InSTEDD?
The iLab SEA is a subsidiary of InSTEDD, a US-based non-profit organization focused on using a blend of social and technical approaches to improve global health, safety and sustainable development. In 2007, with support from Google.org and the Rockefeller Foundation, InSTEDD launched the first iLab located in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The goal of this regionally focused iLab was to build technological capacity for addressing health, safety and sustainable development issues in the Mekong Basin.
In 2011, InSTEDD went on to launch the iLab Latin America located in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Our Latin America team is helping NGOs, governments, social entrepreneurs and other organizations in the region design and use collaboration technology tools to better deliver critical services to vulnerable populations. Concurrently, we a building and optimizing our their technological capacities so that they can further their life-saving humanitarian work.